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David Adickes

Tough times for Presidential heads

This makes me sad.

As polarized politics continue to rage in the Beltway, rural Virginia still has a place where Democrats, Republicans — and some Whigs — stand shoulder to shoulder.

The busts of the first 43 U.S. presidents, each standing at least 15 feet tall and weighing nearly 10 tons, are huddled on the property of Howard Hankins, a local developer who saved them from destruction.

“They all listen to me,” Hankins said of the past commanders-in-chief.

The concrete busts are the remnants of the now-defunct Presidents Park in Williamsburg, Virginia. The 10-acre, $10 million open-air museum, citing a lack of interest from visitors, closed in 2010.

When the park opened in 2004, it was apparently too hidden from passersby, partially obscured by a Days Inn hotel. It appeared the park’s designers failed to consider a vital real estate mantra: location, location, location.

Seeing value in the presidential busts, Hankins said he stepped in and paid about $50,000 to move them to his property 10 miles away.

“The eyes look like they’re staring at you, just gazing at you. It’s incredible how big they are and lifelike,” he said.

First, Hankins had to crack the back of the presidents’ hollow heads to attach a chain that linked the steel frames inside to a crane. Then, each bust was jostled loose from their spot in the park.

Originally, the busts were assembled from two pieces, welded at the middle of their necks. This meant many of the busts suffered neck breaks during the move, as the head started to separate from the shoulders.

Abraham Lincoln’s head suffered the worst damage. The chain attached to it snapped, Hankins said, and even though tires were laid out to cushion any impact, Lincoln was dropped on the back of his head.

The hole in Lincoln’s head is not meant as an allusion.

In all, Hankins said moving the busts to his 600-acre farm required several days of work.

Now, all 43 presidential busts reside on Hankin’s property in various states of ruin. The once-pristine, white paint coatings have lost out to the elements, cracked and ripped off from wind, sun exposure and rain.

For those of us who are fans of David Adickes’ work, as you know I am, the pictures in that story are especially heartbreaking. As noted, these busts were shipped out to Williamsburg back in 2004, with a second set going to a Presidential park near Mount Rushmore and a third set heading to Pearland. Far as I know, those two sets are doing all right, though maybe we ought to do a wellness check on them. The good news here is that the Virginia heads ought to be fixable, and the guy who bought them cares for them and is trying to do right by them. Best of luck to you, Howard Hankins. Many thanks to Linkmeister for sending me this story.

We Heart Houston…someplace else

A popular piece of public art is looking for a new location.

It’s difficult not to smile while driving east on I-10 when passing the “We Heart Houston” sculpture near the Patterson St. exit in the Heights. Since 2013, the colorful, 20-foot-tall work has been a great sight for those with pride in Houston. However, the sculpture’s days there are numbered.

The good news? Houston is getting a larger, more substantial sculpture touting our arts scene in its place. “Art is Everywhere Houston” is on the horizon, and promises to make an even greater impact.

The “We Heart Houston” sculpture’s new location is currently under consideration according to the artist, 89-year-old David Adickes. A prolific and treasured local sculptor, Adickes has numerous larger-than-life works to his credit including “Virtuoso” at the Lyric Center, the enormous President’s Heads, and the 76-foot-tall Sam Houston on display on I-45 in Huntsville.

Adickes is working with the Houston First Corporation to review options. Houston First is the agency charged with enhancing the quality of life in our city, as well as advancing economic prosperity, and the city’s image with the world.

“At first we thought we would move it in front of the Hobby Center on the slope of Buffalo Bayou,” Adickes said. “As people drove by, the skyline would have formed a backdrop for the piece. It was the perfect spot.”

Well, not exactly perfect, as it turns out. The portion along Buffalo Bayou chosen for the sculpture routinely floods. Decision-makers concluded that it was only a matter of time before a photograph of a half-submerged “We Heart Houston” sign saturated the internet – not exactly an image the city wants to project.

‘My next choice of locations is on the jogging path as it runs near Stude Park in the Heights. People could still see the sculpture from the street as they drive by, and it would lend itself to joggers and people in the park taking selfies. That’s another good solution,” stated Adickes.

Why the big move? Since the sculpture’s placement on Adickes’ 3,000-square-foot sliver of property along the feeder of I-10, a large town home development was constructed be hind the work. Then, another wall was built between the town homes and the sculpture itself. The aesthetics no longer fit, says Adickes

“Another reason we’re moving ‘We Heart Houston,’ is safety,” said Christine West, Cultural Programs Manager with Houston First. “It’s popular, and people want to stop and photograph themselves standing with sculpture, but it’s dangerous to do that where it is. There’s no parking along the feeder road and traffic whizzes by there. Houston First wants to place it where people and families can enjoy it without risk, and we can actively maintain it.”

Sounds reasonable to me. As you know, I’m a longtime fan of Adickes’ work, and my kids love this particular piece, so I’m glad it will be moved to a place that is safer and more convenient for taking pictures. I feel confident it will be making an appearance on my Facebook wall in the near future.

To the moon with David Adickes

Awesome.

Before David Adickes walked out his door to get to a news conference Wednesday, he decided to paint a 12-13 inch model of an Apollo astronaut perched on a roughly 5-inch base that he was holding.

The 88-year-old artist and sculptor had used colors of the American flag. His right hand reaching for the sky, the astronaut was “wearing” a white suit with a red stripe on each limb, red and blue buttons on the front and an American flag on the left shoulder. Tucked to his side with his left hand was a white helmet, complete with a gold visor.

“And then the phone started ringing,” Adickes said. “So, I’m late,” he added before walking upstairs into a conference room where some project backers were gathered to hear more details about the enterprise.

The model in Adickes’ hands foreshadowed what he hopes will be done in “about a year plus” – a 100-foot version of it in statue form. It will be in what will become a Webster business park catering to the aerospace sector.

If everything goes right, the statue will be bigger than Adickes’ Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin statues.

[…]

Adickes added that his latest statue will be done in 10-foot sections brought to the site and hoisted up by two cranes and let down over two big pieces of strong steel, like a “skeleton in each leg.” The process will be “pretty much seamless,” but any seams will be fixed throughout the process. He is working on an 8-foot model of the statue he says will be done soon.

“I’m going to then cast two plaster versions of it,” Adickes said. “One of them will be portable, and we’ll use it for gala events … and the other one will be the one that we’ll use at the shop.”

Originally, the astronaut was to have a backpack, its right arm raised to its head in a salute. However, Adickes got rid of the backpack and decided to have the astronaut’s hand wave instead.

“Because when he got back from the moon, in the case of Neil Armstrong, or all of them, they leave the backpack behind and they wave and say, moon, very cool, everybody should go there,” Adickes said to the amusement of some in the conference room.

I don’t really have anything to say here. I’m just an unabashed fan of David Adickes, and it makes me happy to know that he’s in the process of creating another one of his signature statues. I can’t wait to see the finished work.

Adickes documentary

I’d watch that.

Recently local video production company The Storyhive announced details of an upcoming documentary about Houston artist and sculptor David Adickes, the man behind many of the large-scale public art pieces dotting the Bayou City area.

The film, titled “Monumental,” will chronicle Adickes who at the age of 88 is still exercising his creative muscles daily. The film has been in production for three years now, according to the producers.

They shot footage with him in Huntsville at his old high school, which he turned into the Adickes Art Foundation Museum in 2012. They just recently spent a day with him at his house in the Montrose area as he created a mock-up for a statue of an astronaut for a project he’s currently an integral part of.

It could one day be the second-tallest statue in the United States, right behind the Statue of Liberty in New York City, if the project is completed as planned.

“He’s talking about his entire life in the film and the production will focus on his life in Houston after he returned from Europe mostly,” says The Storyhive’s Jena Moreno. The film only has a crew of three people.

Here’s the Facebook page for the project. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know I’m a big fan of Adickes’. The film is aiming for a 2016 release, and I intend to be at a screening. I’m so glad someone is doing this.

Pearland Presidential Head Park gets different development

What could have been, Pearland. What could have been.

What could have been

A 48-acre swath of land that once was envisioned as a park to showcase oversize busts of U.S. presidents has attracted a Chinese developer to Pearland.

Beijing-based Modern Green Development, an international company and one of the largest green building developers in China, hopes to build a large-scale mixed-use project on the site west of Texas 288 and south of Beltway 8.

The planned development would be its first in the United States and second in North America. The company has constructed 15 million square feet of mixed-use space around the world.

[…]

A similar mixed-use project was previously planned for that site around 2007, before the economic downturn stalled the idea and the property was taken over by a bank.

That project, to be called the Water Lights District, was to include a park to display 43 presidential busts by local artist David Adickes.

In Pearland, a suburb where farmland has rapidly given way to residential development in recent decades, the busts were meant to welcome visitors and give the area character.

Only six busts were installed in the Presidential Park & Gardens, and Barack Obama had yet to win election before the project stalled.

Adickes said the busts are now sitting in the yard near his studio in Houston. He said he did not know whether they would be utilized for the new plan.

“The set does exist and is waiting for a final home,” Adickes said. “Theoretically, they would do well there.”

See here, here, and here for the background, because OF COURSE I covered this obsessively. I’m sure this new project will be great and will be needed to deal with the demand of people wanting to live in Pearland. But seriously, you missed out on being the long-term home of the giant Presidential heads. That’s worth way more than any boring old residential development.

New frontiers in giant statues

David Adickes will bring his art to Webster.

The City of Webster is planning a 20,000 square-foot space-themed attraction with a towering astronaut statue to beckon visitors along I-45.

According a proposal unveiled this week, the city’s five-acre tract of land on the northwest side of I-45 and NASA Parkway will be home to the Apollo and Beyond Center, which will educate visitors on the Apollo space program and the area’s rich NASA history.

Officials have enlisted the talent of famed Houston sculptor and painter David Adickes to create an 80-foot statue of a spacesuited Apollo astronaut planting an American flag at the front of the attraction.

There is a proposal for a 50-foot pedestal under the astronaut, which would house a small museum and make the astronaut a total of 130 feet tall. part of the proposal is an elevator to the top of the statue allowing for a 360-degree view of the area.

If the statue of the astronaut goes to plan, it would be taller than the Sam Houston statue that Adickes created for Huntsville. Sam is 67 feet tall with a 10-foot pedestal below him. Adickes’ Angleton-area statue of one of Texas’ other founding fathers, Stephen F. Austin, is 60 feet tall and has a 12-foot pedestal.

Adickes has told the Apollo Center that the astronaut statue will take a little over a year for him to create. The blueprint for the A7L spacesuit that will be depicted in the statue is coming from NASA.

As an unabashed fan of Adickes’ sculptures, I wholeheartedly approve of this. More giant statues, I say. I’ll need to plan a trip to Webster to see the finished work.

David Adickes hearts Houston

And he wants you to know it.

I just like this picture

Houston’s efforts at self-promotion – remember “Houston. It’s Hot!”? – have come and gone. Somehow, though, the Bayou City always looked for love in all the wrong places. Now, thanks to concrete sculptor David Adickes, the sprawling metropolis finally may have found some heart. Fittingly, it’s beside a freeway.

Workers on Tuesday began erecting Adickes’ newest creation, a multi-colored, 30-plus-foot-tall sculpture – “We (heart) Houston” – facing Interstate 10 East, just west of downtown.

[…]

“I think it’s going to have an interesting, welcoming approach into the downtown area,” said Minnette Boesel, the mayor’s assistant for cultural affairs. “I believe David’s inspiration is the iconic artwork that has been developed for other cities, the “I Love New York” art by Robert Indiana. … His thought is to use artwork to welcome people into our city. It’s on his property. The city does not own the statue or own the property.”

David Thompson, co-founder of the “Houston. It’s Worth It” campaign, suggested Adickes should erect twin towers, one bearing the legend, “We (heart) Houston,” the other, “If Only Outsiders Did.”

“We can’t have ‘We (heart) Houston,’ because it’s ‘We (heart) New York,'” he said. “I can’t believe it. I appreciate his effort, but it’s a bit derivative.”

Actually, David, it was “I Love New York”, not “We (heart) New York”. I remember this because I was there when that famous tourism ad campaign was running. See for yourself:

Is the Adickes work derivative of that? Yeah, it is, but I don’t care. He says his inspiration is the giant HOLLYWOOD sign. Fine by me either way. You can see a picture of this installation here. I need to do my own drive-by and get a picture of it myself. It will be formally dedicated on July 12. Not everyone likes Adickes’ latest, but I do. Keep ’em coming, David. I’m already looking forward to whatever it is you’re doing next.

Mount Rush Hour Park

It’s actually called American Statesmanship Park, but either way it’s awesome.

Mount Rush Hour

Harris County on Tuesday accepted a donation of a small plot of land near the intersection of Interstates 10 and 45 where 18-foot concrete busts of Stephen F. Austin, Sam Houston, Abraham Lincoln and George Washington sit.

Each bust by Houston artist David Adickes, 83, was valued at $100,00, plus $87,000 for the land. Precinct 2 parks superintendent Gilbert Smith said there are plans to name the plot American Statesmanship Park, after words inscribed on the base of the sculptures.

In addition to oversized presidents and dignitaries, Adickes also is known for the 67-foot-tall Sam Houston statue in Huntsville and the 36-foot-tall cellist at downtown’s Lyric Centre. A plaque on the site will identify him as the busts’ creator and Quinita and Christopher LaPorte as the donors.

“We’re going to work on some kind of a nicer signage for the front, something low that will look nice, and mow it on a regular basis and the pay the light bill to light it at night,” Smith said, adding that he’s been told the occasional coat of white paint and some intermittent power washing also will be needed.

There’s an aerial photo at the Chron link, and here’s a Google map if you want to get a closer look. You can get there easily via the Heights Bike Trail – head east to Houston Avenue, turn right towards downtown, then turn left (east) on Edwards Street, and you’ll see the statues as the road veers around towards Bingham. David Adickes is a national treasure, and we are so lucky to have him in our town.

The Adickes museum

Cool.

A Tribute To American Statesmanship

It’s been 70 years since David Adickes danced the jitterbug in the old Huntsville High School gym. Now, at age 85, he pauses at a flight of schoolhouse stairs, uncertain if his knees can stand the climb. Still, there’s a rare bond between Adickes – the Houston artist who has charmed and shocked with his giant concrete statues – and this 1931-vintage backwoods temple of learning.

Only four years ago, the long-vacant brick building with a leaky roof and cracked walls seemed destined for demolition. Then Adickes, looking for a suitable showcase for a lifetime of paintings and sculptures, learned of its plight and made an offer.

Later this month, he will host a private reception to open the refurbished, 80,000-square-foot school as a gallery for more than 300 paintings and undetermined number of statues. Initially, the site will be open to curators hunting works for museum exhibits. Eventually, the Huntsville native hopes to open the school as a museum of his work.

“If not now, when?, to quote Jack Kennedy,” Adickes said. “I’ve always wanted to do this. … I think every artist is concerned about what’s going to happen to his work when he’s gone. Permanence always has had a great value to me.”

As you well know, I love me some Adickes artwork. Looks like I’ll need to plan a road trip at some point.

Yes, we do heart Houston

I’ll be ready to take a photo of this after it’s been deployed.

SCULPTOR DAVID Adickes is almost ready to plant this giant concrete-on-steel sign on property he owns along Chester St. on the south side of I-10, just east of Patterson. You’ll be able to get your best view of it when traffic comes to a standstill on your way downtown.

Click the link to see the picture. My love of all things Adickes is well-documented, so if you’re a hater please spare me your outrage. It won’t change my mind.

Adickes studio sold

From Swamplot:

THE LAUNCHING pad for I-45’s Mount Rush Hour, that presidential muck circle in Pearland, and more outsize sculptureprojects has a buyer. David Adickes — creator of the giant Sam Houston of Huntsville and the disembodied cellist in front of the Lyric Center Downtown, and yes, the original owner and projectionist for sixties psychedelic Commerce St. hangout Love Street Light Circus — is selling his SculpturWorx compound off Sawyer St. to Phil Arnett and L.E. “Chap” Chapman. Arnett and Chapman are best known for turning an old staple manufacturing building down the street from the original Goode Co. Bar-B-Q on Kirby into the Bartlett Lofts. Their plan for Adickes’s 78,175 sq. ft. of warehouse space at 2500 Summer St.: keeping the “artist flavor” (and most of the tenants) of the old buildings, while renovating the property and using up to 22,000 sq. ft. of it (Adickes’s first-floor studio, for example) as commercial space — maybe including a restaurant or two.

As long as the giant Presidential heads remain and continue to be visible from Sawyer Street as you drive past, it’s all good.

Giant Presidential heads coming home

We in Houston welcome them with open arms, for however long we get to have them back.

Less than a month after foreclosure proceedings put the brakes on Pearland’s WaterLights District and Presidential Park & Gardens, the homeless presidents are heading out, a company official said.

From 9 a.m. to noon today, workers using cranes will load the remaining presidents aboard three 18-wheelers for the trip to the Heights in Houston. Making the roughly 12-mile trip will be George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Frankin D. Roosevelt, John Kennedy and George H. Bush.

A sculpture of President Barack Obama was displayed at the site for 24 hours, drawing 700 visitors, but was moved to Houston last year.

Until a new location for the presidential park is found, the statues will remain in the Heights at the studio of artist David Adickes, who designed and sculpted the presidential busts, said David Goswick, spokesman for Boardwalk at the Spectrum LP, the developer.

No rush, y’all. We’re happy to keep them for as long as you need us to.
See here for more. Thanks to Prime Property for the link.

Obama head on the move

Hello, Austin!

President Barack Obama’s concrete head rested peacefully on an open-bed trailer outside Vino Vino wine bar on Guadalupe Street on Sunday evening. The 20-foot-tall sculpture of the president had just been hauled from Houston.

Its creator, 82-year-old artist David Adickes, is traveling with the 3½-ton bust, and grinned as he looked at the head that was parked on the street.

“Most people just ogled it on the highway,” he said. “Only one guy gave us the finger.”

Man, I wish I could have seen that on the highway. How awesome would that have been?

Adickes said he started making the bust Nov. 5, the day after Election Day. The hardest part, he said, was creating Obama’s hair because it is closely cropped, which made it blend in too much with the rest of the sculpture. “I antiqued his hair by putting paint into the creases of it,” he said.

Adickes, who lives in Houston, said he began making busts of presidents’ heads in 1994 after visiting Mount Rushmore. He said he was bothered because people couldn’t get close to the sculptures on the mountain.

Visitors can get as close as they like to his busts at Presidents Park.

“They can talk to them and touch them,” he said.

Have I mentioned lately that I love stories about David Adickes and his giant presidential heads? Because I do. And here’s a Houston Press photo slideshow from Pearland if you, like me, just can’t get enough of this stuff.

A new Presidential head comes to Pearland

You all know I’m a big fan of David Adickes and his giant Presidential heads, which were moved to Pearland last year. Well, they are about to be joined by the latest model.

A 20-foot-tall bust of Barack Obama made of concrete and weighing 3.5 tons will be on display in Pearland this Friday off Texas 288 near the Waterlights District starting at about 2:30 p.m.

The sculpture is the latest in a series done by Texas artist David Adickes and will briefly join other president heads by Adickes that are permanently displayed on the site.

While an Obama bust is eventually planned for the site, this particular statue will be just passing through on its way to the Presidents Park near Deadwood, S.D., where it will arrive in time to join 42 other presidential busts for a July Fourth celebration.

Between Friday and July 4, the bust will visit 30 cities in eight states. In some cities, life-size busts of Obama will be auctioned to raise money for the homeless.

According to Peter Smetek, chairman and CEO of Larrea Biosciences, a sponsor of the tour, the statue will be in Pearland overnight if police protection can be secured.

Don’t worry if you miss it though. A launch party will be held in Houston at 2500 Summer Street on Saturday starting at about 4 p.m.

Awesome. I drove by Summer Street to try to get a picture of the new Obama bust yesterday, but it wasn’t in the yard with the others and the studio was all closed up, so no dice. Maybe I’ll get the next one.

By the way, I don’t know if you’re the type that finds the Chron comments in general to be hilarious or appalling, but whichever the case, the comments on that post are a pure distillation of the genre. It’s a fetid swamp of racism, paranoia, and blithering stupidity, the kind that makes you think you can feel IQ points dripping out of your ears as you read them. If you like that sort of thing, the comments on that post are definitely the sort of thing that you’ll like. Enjoy, if you dare.